Last Friday was National Poetry Day. My local independent bookstore, Page and Blackmore, ran a national poetry competition and I got second place. Here’s the poem.
On the flat-bottomed boat
we watch fat fish through the glass
flashing by under our feet
A flounder rears up, shedding sand
Doug puts a hand on my waist
A dogshark glides by
I think about catching it, for him
slitting the taut white belly
stuffing it with lemon and sugar
The guide says salmon come through here
on the way to spawn
Most of them make it back
he offers us red wine and bread
Doug pours my glass into his
I look down past my toes
and see my own pale thighs, upside down
patterned with reflected ripples
floating in the shallows.
There’s a lot going on in this poem. The theme for the competition was “Pressure Cooker,” with the idea that you would choose a recipe to be inspired by.
Initially I was exploring my extremely restricted diet – the emotional effect of it, my body issues around weight, and the policing I sometimes experience from others about what I should and shouldn’t be eating.
As I wrote, I also began to explore this allegory of an abusive relationship. The abusive relationship is personified here, but the one I was actually talking about was mine with food. “Doug” represents patriarchal policing and oppressive restriction.
I like the creepiness of the poem. The slitting and stuffing of the fish speaks volumes about the narrator’s suppressed rage. The hand on her waist is about physical and emotional restraint. He takes her wine; the stealing of her dietary and religious freedom, and her youth.
In the end, she recognises that the more likely homicide, the only victim, is her.
I didn’t mean it to be quite so depressing, but I think what I wanted to say is all there. I shall now go and write one about feminine empowerment!